I have a really lousy memory for small things. It’s fitting, then, that when I had the idea for my “second brain”, an all-purpose notebook that I could carry with me everywhere to capture stray thoughts, I had completely and totally forgotten about NOTES from three years prior, despite the fact that the concept was nearly identical. I thought my notion was singularly novel, when in fact I had unknowingly plagiarized it from my own self.
Near the end of Change’s run, my girlfriend asked to read its contents.
I should have recognized that as a sign that her trust in our relationship was faltering, gently declined the request, and worked together with her to find a way to rebuild her trust. That would have been the emotionally intelligent, mature way to handle that while also maintaining my personal boundaries. But, as established before, high school me had the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills of a misanthropic sea cucumber, so instead of doing any of that, I hemmed and hawed for weeks before finally caving and, profoundly uncomfortable, thrusting my journal at her and wincing.1Seriously—I handed it over and then sat there with my eyes closed, waiting for the bombshell to drop.
She read a little bit before she found one of my more grossly objectifying entries. It had been written at a time when we hadn’t been dating and I had a thing with someone else, so I assumed she was aghast to learn I’d been with other people. In hindsight, she was almost certainly more aghast (and rightfully so) at the sexist, objectifying way I wrote about those experiences, and the mindset it revealed. Our relationship was smoldering with the fallout for months after.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↩||Seriously—I handed it over and then sat there with my eyes closed, waiting for the bombshell to drop.|
Oh, this journal.
Given to me as a gift by a close friend, it became Volume 2 for my reflections after I filled Exponents up, and lasted from my sophomore year of high school until a few months before high school graduation.
A Journal Named Exponents was a training ground for me. I had never kept a personal journal before, so I spent most of its pages determining what putting myself to paper looked like. At first, this meant meticulously recording the minutia of dates and hangouts–in at least two separate entries, I recorded not only what I ordered for dinner, but what all my companions did as well. By the end of Exponents and the beginning of Change, however, I’d curbed that tendency, and had a solid idea of what a personal journal was for me: a safe place where I could record my innermost thoughts without fear of judgment. As such, from cover to cover, the pages of Change carry the distilled essence of high school me.
It’s difficult to read.
When I turned 14, my Grandma S., a loving, whip-smart woman whose career—librarian—and personal passion—writing poetry—make me strongly suspect that having an inky brain is hereditary, gave me a journal. It was wrapped in toasty brown suede enlivened by a jaunty path of rainbow stitching. A thin leather lace wrapped around an ornate silver button and tied it shut. It was the nicest journal I’d ever owned, and the moment I saw it, it became part of my self. And since, at 14, I labored under the delusion that the fastest route to humor was nonsense, I named it “A Journal Named Exponents”.
Before I ever considered telling a journal about my innermost thoughts and feelings, I was using composition books for a separate type of writing: fiction.